By Jana Sillen, PROTECT Project Manager, and Ya Sainey Gaye, Communications Officer, ChildFund The Gambia
Earlier this year, ChildFund held a mid-term review of the PROTECT Project, a partnership with the government of The Gambia that focuses on prevention and response to child trafficking in The Gambia. The main partners and stakeholders in the project from government agencies, armed forces, the police, immigration and child-focused organizations attended the meeting. The group heard about two children who were in dire circumstances, but today they are in school and have stable homes. We reached out to these children to hear about how they are doing today. For their protection, we have given them pseudonyms.
A Runaway Reclaimed
Lamin, 13, was found in Jiboro, at the Senegalese-Gambian border, and was taken to a shelter by the police. He ran away from the shelter and was found again at another border post and was taken back to the shelter.
Lamin’s father is a German national but left him with his mother in The Gambia. His mother died last year, which forced him and his brothers to live on the streets. He sometimes went to see his aunt in Barra to spend some time at her compound.
Social workers were able to trace his aunt in Barra and reunited Lamin with her. The aunt is pleased to look after him and is now ensuring he goes to school.
Lamin explained, “I am very happy that my auntie has enrolled me back into school, and her children are very kind to me.”
A Return to School
Fatou, 16, had completed grade 6, but her parents could not afford the fees for her new school. They decided instead to force her into marriage. She wrote to ChildFund The Gambia’s national director to explain her story and requested sponsorship to continue her education instead of having to enter into an arranged marriage.
The PROTECT Project referred the case to Sanyang Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC). The CCPC met with the Federation Board of Kaira Suu Federation, ChildFund’s local partner. The board agreed to grant Fatou sponsorship to continue her education up to the age of 24.
As a result, she lives with an acquaintance in Sukuta not far from her school. “I am very grateful to the management of PROTECT Project, the CCPC at Sanyang and my new host for helping me out in this difficult situation,” Fatou said. “I am also thankful to my parents for their understanding, and I promised them to do my utmost best in school to prove to my sponsors that I will not disappoint them.” She regularly visits her parents during breaks, and her teacher recently gave her high marks.
About the PROTECT Project
The Gambia’s PROTECT Project, a two-year program funded by the U.S. State Department, was started to develop a viable national child protection system with a focus on limiting child-trafficking on local and national levels.
About 320 law enforcement officials, social workers, district representatives and members of the Community Child Protection Communities have now received training on prevention and responses to child-trafficking and child protection issues. Before the training, some didn’t believe that trafficking existed, said Siaka K. Dibba, the project trainer.
Now more community members and government officials are more aware of the problem and are watching out for children.
by Vuong Tuyet Nhung, ChildFund Vietnam
At the national children’s forum held in late August in Hanoi, the focus was on helping children who are the victims of bad treatment, abuse, violence, exploitation, neglect and trafficking.
Eighty-five children from 12 Vietnamese provinces attended the event. The vice-minister of the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) served as chair. ChildFund Vietnam worked with local government agencies in Hoa Binh and Bac Kan to select six children and two adult facilitators from our program sites to represent each province.
Prior to the main workshop, our staff conducted an overview training on child protection to help the children become more familiar with issues like child trafficking, bullying and corporal punishment, as well as the abuse types and trafficking situations that exist in Vietnam and the world.
During the workshop, children had intensive peer discussions about human trafficking, abuse and violence in their areas, identifying reasons and proposing solutions. They also had direct dialogues with MOLISA and the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT) leaders to raise questions about these issues.
On behalf of their localities, the children also delivered powerful messages urging Vietnamese and Mekong regional leaders to combat human trafficking.
Among their calls to action:
Nguyen Hai Huu, director of Vietnam’s child-protection bureau, complimented the children’s confident presentations and communication skills. “Their messages amazed me much, with remarkable initiatives reflecting factual states in different areas,” he said.
“I’m so proud and happy to join in such a big event like this,” exclaimed Diem, a 14- year-old girl from the Bach Thong district. “As the leader of Bac Kan group, I encouraged all members in my group to contribute ideas in discussions.” She noted that the workshop helped her gain knowledge of children’s rights, child violence and trafficking. She also sharpened her teamwork and communication skills by working with children from other provinces.
“Now I have a better ability of defining violence cases around me. Before coming here, I thought it is nothing special if classmates beat each other or parents abused their children,” she said.
Five children who attended the August workshop in Hanoi will be representing Vietnam at the Mekong Youth Forum on human trafficking in Bangkok, Thailand, later this month.